Entry #072: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 (San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands)

Before I begin, I don't necessarily what you might have heard about in the news, or connected it with the fact that I'm in the Galapagos, but at the moment of me posting this, all is well with me. I haven't been swept away or any such thing. I can't make any guarantees for any point after this, so I guess you'll just have to stay tuned? Anyway, I've been doing some work here at the Hacienda Esperanza for a few days now, and it's been good. Different than my Askari work (significantly fewer crazy animal encounters, for one), but neat in its own way. And the afternoon relaxing is quite nice. But let's not waste time with generals; let's dive into specifics.

Monday began in my absolute favorite way possible: with my alarm clock going off at 5am. I turned it off and considered rolling over in bed, but I thought that probably wouldn't be for the best (especially since I had another alarm that was scheduled to go off in less than fifteen minutes), so I got up. To my genuine surprise, I was the first and only person up until about 5:20. Considering that I only need a couple minutes to ever get my things together, I thought that maybe I could have slept in a bit more. Actually, there was one other person - well, creature - up, and that was Ariel the cat, who rushed inside the house the moment I opened the door to go to the bathroom. I grabbed him, and took him back out, and then got myself groomed and ready. We were supposed to have breakfast at 5:30 sharp (so we could get out as early as possible, but that didn't end up happening, since it seemed like Jose needed to sleep in a bit. So, breakfast was a little late, but it was still the same thing I guess I should be used to in this country: a grilled sandwich with cheese (and meat), and eggs. (We could also have cereal, but I didn't want to pig out or anything.) There was a little bit of jealousy towards the vegans, as they were given toast and fruit, and fruit was apparently something never given to the normal volunteers. But whatever, I had my own issues: I prepared myself some hot chocolate, and I don't know if it fell from the sky, or had been hiding in the chocolate powder, but like magic and with the tiniest of splashes, a moth appeared in my hot chocolate, as well as some odd colorations around him. Needless to say, it somewhat dulled my desire for chocolate at the moment, so I just went out, flushed it down the toilet, and then had some tea.

Once breakfast was finished and the dishes were washed, we headed out for the day. The sun was not yet above the horizon, but there was still plenty of light, but thankfully not much heat. And while this was the "long hike" up the hill to the primary workplace (which I believe was called something like "Isla de Tortugas", but could have just as easily been some other "[SPANISH TERM] de Tortugas"), it was actually pretty simple - a half-hour walk in the park (quite literally the national park) with only a very slight incline most of the way. Nothing to get worried over. There wasn't terribly much to see on the path, mostly just old volcanic rocks, some shrubs, and a lot of invasive plants, particularly the Mora. Now, I have to believe Mora is a completely different variety of blackberry than the bushes we're used to. It mostly grows in long, straight stalks, which have so much of some powder on them that they flat-out seem white. Also, the berries don't seem quite as appealing, which is a shame, because I was hoping we might be able to eat some as a reward whenever we took down their producer. Oh, and they have thorns, but that's no different from your normal blackberry bush. (It did make me ponder the question, though: why would a fruiting plant have thorns which indeed make it harder to get the fruit? What purpose do they serve the plant on an evolutionary level?) Anyhoo, we ended up splitting into a couple groups along the way, with myself, Lucia, and Bronn in front. But it didn't make much difference who was where, because there wasn't much conversation until we reached the top anywhere, where there was a work shed waiting for us, alongside a set of infinitely more appealing hammocks. Apparently we were able to have our first break before even beginning work, as a reward of sorts for walking up the hill. So we did just that, and it was quite nice.

Once everyone came up and put on some gloves, we got to our first job for the day. We were in an area that seemed to have been previously gone through. There were remnants of dead mora plants littering the ground, and many of the guava trees had been cut down as well. However, they still needed to be moved out of the way in order to clear land for the replanting of native species. So, this was done two-fold. First, a couple people were given rakes in order to go to one area of the land and rake the mora stalks into pile on the side. The rest of us were taken to an area even earlier in its reclamation, and we had to take cut branches and trunks of guava trees and, pretty simply, throw them over the side of a cliff. I tried questioning what was down below, and if this was just delaying the inevitable, but nobody else seemed concerned about it, so maybe they knew something I didn't. Anyway, it was during this segment that the magnitude of the invasion of these plants really became clear. I had thought it funny when I saw on the Hacienda's website's "What We Do" page, the "Before" picture looked much more lush and green, and the "After" picture just looked...empty. The thing is, at least in this area (and one could reasonably assume on many parts of the island), it seemed by eye as though eight of ten trees standing around were invasive guava. That's pretty ridiculous, and it meant we were doing a lot of cutting and moving. Actually, I was just doing moving, often dragging two half-trees behind me.

This all lasted about two, maybe two-point-five, hours, and truth be told, it wasn't as bad as I may have been led to believe. It was physical, yes, but no more so than anything I've done at Askari. And it was occasionally hot - everyone was drenched in sweat - but it never felt so hot as to be unbearable. We even got some instances of the sun going behind the clouds, which was nice. The worst part was all the mora stalks that pretty much created a carpet on the ground. Stepping on them wasn't a problem, at least not with my pretty hardy boots - but occasionally your foot would catch onto a slightly raised one, which would then send the stalk speeding towards the back of your opposite leg, providing you with a potent little sting. Each one small and annoying, and later in the way, I could see the dozens of tiny cuts and pinpricks in my legs. I also ended up with a bleeding cut in my arm, though I have no idea where that one came from.

Once that work was over, we took a much needed break. Rest was good, but my main concern was water. Unfortunately, my supply was cut a little short when people found out that I had brought my CamelBak. Suddenly, I was asked for charity, and after a third-liter here, a half-liter there, I barely had enough to last me the rest of our work. But I enjoyed the break despite folks siphoning off me, because I was able to lie in a hammock in the breeze, and even take a little nap. The break lasted for a half-hour, and then it was time to get onto our second job for the day. We walked to a new area, passing by one of the giant tortoises along the way (although he was so scared that he never took his head out of his shell; also, I'd really describe him more as a medium tortoise, as his size was nothing to gloat over). Anyway, the second activity took place on a rather steep hill, and it also involved guava. Specifically, it involved the premature cutting of young shoots, mostly growing from the roots of previously cut down trees. (The second onus was to remove what roots we could, which it seemed like only a couple people took to heart.) This second part seemed much trickier, partially because of the steep hill, partially because of the fact that the sun had intensified quite a bit, and partially because of the fact that I had to go up and down a lot (I still have the issue where I get a bit lightheaded if I rise too quickly). Even so, it was over before we knew it, and just like that, we were finished for the day.

We rested and enjoyed some well-earned water and shade for a short while back at the work shed, and then made the march back down to the Hacienda proper at about noon. Jose had beat us down by a considerable margin by riding one of their horses, named "Pegaso" (a name I love), so was able to start preparing dinner. In the meantime, folks were taking showers, 'cause were sweaty and sticky. Really, I should have been the first person to shower, because my arms were also covered with dirt (courtesy of all the root-pulling I'd been doing). However, I know how long I require for a shower, so I ceded that position. (Hey, what can I say, I need time to cleanse.) After that, we had a lunch of rice, beans, chicken, and grilled plantain. Afterward, we were all just milling around and talking, and Bronn asked if I wanted to go to town with him and Lucia. I decided it would be useful to get on the internet, if only to make sure people were aware I couldn't normally get on the internet, so I agreed. While we were waiting for our taxi, I was playing a bit with Ariel the cat, an eighth person arrived at the Hacienda, and Jose came up to me to ask if I had paid for my accommodations. I said I hadn't, and handed him the $200 for the first week. I'm not going to lie - because I'd rather be known as a truthful scumbag - I was hoping that he'd forget, or there would be some sort of error, and I wouldn't have to pay. Like, a number of people had booked their stay here through an agency, and prepaid, and I was hoping they'd assume it was the same for me. 'Cause I'd love to keep that $400. So I'll admit, I was a biting my lip a bit as I was paying.

Anyway, our taxi arrived, and took us to the waterfront in town. We somewhat split up, as we all had our own agendas. I first went to number of different touring agencies to see if I could book a day activity for the weekend. I was considering two options: either snorkeling in the nearby Kicker Rock, with the main attraction being hammerhead sharks; or visiting Isla Floreana, which had artifacts from the Pirate Age of the Galapagos. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that the second option wasn't really the most ideal, as there were no direct boats; I'd have to first have to go to Isla Santa Cruz, and then to Floreana. And then I'd have to do the opposite. I'm guessing that would be about eight hours of travel by itself, which would make the thing a much larger ordeal than I wanted to account for. As for Kicker Rock, I found a number of places that basically offered the exact same deal: $80 for a most-of-the-day tour. I'll probably do that, but just need to confirm my day. (I also need to look at getting an underwater camera. I know, I know, these things shouldn't be about the photos and all that, but I can't deny photos make for more attractive package, especially when I forget things down the line.) After picking up a few cards, I tried to get some cash at an ATM, but apparently it needed a thumbprint scan, which as a non-bank member, I failed quite thoroughly. So I continued on to find a cafe with WiFi, and found Bronn sitting at one. I joined him, and then got myself a milkshake, which may have been the closest thing to an actual milkshake I've gotten in months (not like the New Zealand flavored milk things). I sat there for some time, going through my emails, and, as you might have noticed, posting my most recent blog entry (well, most recent until now). It was a good to get things taken care of. After some time, Lucia met with us, and we decided as a group to head to the supermarket. I stopped on the way at a different ATM, where I successfully withdrew some cash (and tried-but-failed helping some poor Scandinavian girl that couldn't get her card working). When we got to the supermarket, Bronn got some cooking supplies, whereas I was mostly just asking the cashier the prices of various items, and then putting them down after being disgusted at the price. I did eventually buy a popsicle, though. There's a poster in the Hacienda, apropos of nothing, which shows all the popsicles with their prices. I tried remembering which was the cheapest, but unfortunately got it all wrong and ended up getting a popsicle that, while good, wasn't worth $1.50. Oh, well; vacation, right?

Anyway, we quickly found a taxi afterward, which took us to the Hacienda, which now seems to be jumping. It's kinda nutty, when I first arrived, I thought I was going to be one of four people for a week. Now it's at eight, and while it may collapse pretty spectacularly (at least six of the other folks are either for sure leaving or are possibly leaving this weekend), it's gonna be crowded for a bit. At least work will be effective, I suppose. Anyway, I chilled outside for a little while, spending some time with the animals, and then went into my room to do some writing, which I did until about 7pm, when I went into the dining room in preparation for dinner. Turns out that both I was a bit early and dinner was a little late, so I was waiting for more than an hour. Everyone else was at the table, mostly reading or doing things on their phones, so I fell back to my old standby of reading random offline WikiVoyage articles. Eventually, though, I got a bit of a conversation started, which spanned the gamut of high profile murders in my sleepy hometown, Machu Picchu, and how we'd like to die (me: I want my corpse to be found alongside, embraced if you will, with a bear's corpse; my hand gripping a knife leading into its head, its claw piercing fully through my chest). As someone who enjoys the art of conversation, it was a fun set of discussions to have. During this time, I tried to get to know Julie, the new arrival from Denmark. She was going to be staying for as many as four weeks (aka "the long haul"), and seemed nice enough, though I couldn't get a good read on her personality. Unfortunately, we got a bit of bad news when we heard that Ariel the cat had been attacked by an overly aggressive (and large) neighborhood dog that I'd seen chained up. From what I could gather, though, the prognosis seemed good. After dinner - and I can guess this will be how things are after every dinner - things just shut down. I brushed my teeth, went to my room to do some last-minute writing, and went to bed.

Now, I'm not sure if the transition into April Fool's Day had anything to do with it, but I had a rather odd dream during the night. Not all-out wacky, but odd. Basically, I think it began with me injuring my arms in some relatively trivial way. However, it ended up that I became a candidate to get two robot arms. And when I say robot arms, I mean arms that looked more at home on an oil derrick than on a person. Going further, though, a scientist offered me the opportunity to have my right arm (and only my right arm) receive a much more advanced, human-like arm. And getting it would make me famous, and I could get money by doing a documentary, and all sorts of stuff. However, part of this required them knowing my hand size for some reason, and this proved problematic, because they could only sketch out my hand like a kid's Thanksgiving turkey drawing. But I couldn't do this on a flat surface, because of the way it made my hand spread out or something. They tried looking for something else, but I eventually solved the problem (I think) by rolling up some raw ground beef into a sphere, holding it firmly, and then drawing around my hand on the meatball. I also had people trying to pay me cash upfront to get my robotic arm elsewhere. And then I started having my own misgivings, because despite all else, my arms were working as well as they normally do, and these robotic arms weren't the Adam Jensen suite: they could hardly function better than the real deal.

I think the dream was going to end up with me talking with the scientists, and perhaps reaching a bit of a resolution, but that was interrupted when my alarm woke me up, this time at 5:15. I got up, and got my stuff ready for the day. And for the most part, it was just me and Sarah who were ready for breakfast at the assigned time. Some people weren't even coming out of their rooms until ten minutes after we were supposed to be eating. I know it's a very lax structure here, but it's the sun and heat we're fighting against, so every minute counts. Anyway, it didn't matter too much in the end, as breakfast was served a little late regardless. It was a simple meal of toast, pancakes, and fruit (with the hefty aroma of smoke, courtesy of new girl Julie, who took her food to the front porch to have her second cigarette since waking up fifteen minutes prior). Once I was finished, I went out into the front yard to pet Pegaso the horse and wait for everyone. In theory, we were supposed to leave immediately after breakfast, but that wasn't really happening here. I knew where we were supposed to be going (the same place as before, which I later learned was "La Buena Vista de las Tortugas"), so really, what was stopping me from just going? I grabbed my backpack, and Bronn and I headed up. I talked some gaming along the way (well, more about the facets of my job than gaming itself), and we (along with Sarah, who must have ran to catch up with us) sat down and relaxed at the work shed while waiting for everyone to arrive.

The first thing I noticed while we were swinging back and forth in our hammocks was that it was windy. Really windy. But the wind we were experiencing there was nothing compared to the wind that we experienced during our first project of the day. This project was on the same steep hill we were on the day before, but this time, the target was mora plants. Being a particularly insidious plant, you need to remove big root clusters/"crowns" before you can really be sure that it won't be coming back. Because there were plenty of places where it was coming back. We had shovels (of a sort) to help us, but for the most part, it was just careful pulling, hoping that you were able to go down deep enough to find a root crown. If not, well, at least you bought another couple months before the thing grows back. It wasn't quite as demanding as the work on the prior day, but the wind itself was quite an issue. I may have mentioned it back when I was in Wellington, New Zealand, but wind is easily my least favorite element ("element" in the Captain Planet sense: earth, fire, wind, water, etc). And here it was constantly threatening to blow my hat off the side of a cliff (and nearly did so a couple times); it even was conspiring with the mora plants - occasionally, I'd be bringing a couple stalks over to be thrown in the refuse pile. The wind would suddenly shift and blow hard, and I had a stalk of thorns being blown at my face/neck/sides. I suppose I can give the wind some credit for bringing down the temperature to a fairly low level, but still, I would have preferred a happy medium with a light breeze of something.

After a couple hours of this, we finished and took a break. There were seven of us (the Finnish girl, Sako, said she had a migraine from not getting enough sleep the night before; apparently, a number of people were kept up due to the wind banging the tin roof. Truth be told, I hadn't noticed; much too involved with robot arms and such), but only six hammocks available, so it seems like it's always a bit of a race. I was the second-to-last, so I still got a hammock, but the one I dubbed the "Exile Hammock", due to its distance from the rest of them. Truth be told, it's actually a bit of a nice hammock if your main interest is relaxing; you can't speak to anyone, but you can just chill out by yourself. I played some soft music for myself and lay back, and must have dozed off a bit, because before I knew it, I was being called for our second project. This one was on a different hill, one that had clearly had a lot of work done on it before. There were no guava trees, and very few living mora plants, but a lot of debris and dead plants. There must have been at least five rounds of work done in that area before. Our task was to gather up a lot of the debris (which also involved pulling things, mainly mora root crowns, out of the ground), and throw it into the refuse piles on the edge of the cliff. This was to clean out the space and, I'm assuming, allow for the replanting of native and endemic species. Even when we began, we could tell it would take a couple of sessions, because there was too much to be done even by seven volunteers. Which seems to be one of the general issues I think someone might have with this program if they're not looking long-term: nothing you do seems to have much effect. Like, you know you're helping, but at the end of the day, you have an area that looks just as disheveled, if in a different way than before. I think to really understand and appreciate the program, you'd need to do it for some time, and then return a couple years later to see the progress that you and people like you helped produce. Anyway, while this was going on (and while people were finding random animal bones; maybe this used to be a pet cemetery?), I was speaking with Ben about his travels, and he had some interesting questions for me about how I stayed engaged and interested in my travels, instead of just touring around and sightseeing. It seemed to me like he had some concern about the value of his trip, in that he wanted to get more out of it. I mentioned that for myself, objective-based things (trekking, cycling tours, volunteering) helped give me a sense of value, but I also reminded him not to let anyone tell him how to enjoy his trip. It seemed like he wanted some part of the trip to be about meeting people and such, and I told him that's great and to follow that, although I don't agree with it for myself. I've mentioned a bit of ennui and listlessness before, but not for a while, and I don't think I've ever outright questioned the value of my own trip, so I guess that's a good thing.

Anyway, we finished after about an hour and a half more (weather-wise, the temperature had risen a bit, and the wind died down, but it wasn't terrible by any means). We went back to the work shed, where we all had some water (and new girl Julie was smoking even more cigarettes right there; I'm not sure how she'll be able to handle all the physical labor if she's sucking down a pack a day [and then literally blowing it back at us]). Eventually, we walked back down to the Hacienda. I decided to do a little home laundry, so that I wouldn't have to take my clothes into town for a wash (which would require two trips, thus upping the cost quite a bit). So, I grabbed some of my dirty clothes and my washing powder, and brought it all into the shower with me. It wasn't the most thorough washing of all time, but what do I care? These are work clothes now, and three weeks from now, I probably won't have any need to use them again (and I think a year of straight service merits a worthy retirement). I then hung them on the clothesline in the back of the house, and inside to have lunch, which must have already been in progress for ten minutes. Nothing special to say about that, really, other than the "we'll take turns doing dishes" guideline has seemed to fall apart into an every-man-for-himself scenario. After eating, I went to the hammock behind the house (the "Secret Hammock", as it were), and continued reading my book, all the while watching my clothes dry off at a record pace (equatorial sun and high winds'll do that, I s'pose). At one point, six of the eight volunteers decided to go to town, and while that would have made for cheap cab fare, I didn't really have much need to go, so I passed. Sometime after they were picked up by the taxi, I tried getting into the house, and found that it was somehow locked. Not a great situation, but there wasn't much I could do at the moment, so I just went back to the hammock and read some more. Eventually, though, I got a bit antsy, and decided I'd try to climb in through one of the windows. This proved to be unnecessary, though, as Lucia was there and had managed to get the door unlocked. Oddly, though, she seemed absolutely terrified of me when I greeted her. Maybe she felt threatened when I asked "Are we the only ones left here?", but other than that, I can't explain why she suddenly seemed so worried. In any case, I went into my room, where I relaxed for a while, went out to get most of my laundry (the only things that weren't bone-dry were the socks, which are the only non-quick-drying items I have), and then came back in to do some writing.

Eventually, Jose's sister came in with her kids, because I guess she was going to be cooking dinner tonight. I was a bit concerned when she left the front door open (most likely for ventilation), because the same thing had happened the night before, and the house was non-coincidentally invaded with mosquitoes that night. However, considering that I've only been here four days versus her, uh, many more days, I felt it wasn't really in my place to complain. So I just closed the door to my room and hoped that would help. (Jose eventually came in and used his common sense to close the door.) I continued my writing for a while, and then passed some more time by watching some videos and reading yet more of my book. This continued until everyone came back at about 7:15 for dinner, although it wasn't actually served until 8pm. When people arrived, they said that the news mentioned a magnitude 8.3 earthquake along the coast of Chile, which just seems like rotten luck for that country. I thought of all the people I knew in Chile, and prayed for their safety. However, not having any way of obtaining more information, the conversation soon turned to other things.

I had forgotten that the new moon had already passed two days prior, so I missed my optimum astro-photography opportunities, but it was still nice enough that I decided to go out to get some shots. I invited anyone who wanted to come, and the Canadians decided to join me. We tried finding a nice dark spot, which proved difficult, as the only convenient spots had a few houselights in the area, and really dark locations either required a long walk or going out into uncharted (for us) territory. So, we got in the best space we could, and started taking pictures (by which I mean they were fiddling with their camera settings and trying different shots while I gave pointers). The main issues were trucks constantly coming near and turning on their headlights. When Ben asked if we were ready to go back, I noted that I hadn't taken a single shot yet, so I still intended to stay out for a bit. I did a few more of my own shots, but didn't get the Milky Way like I wanted. I was hoping to have a Milky Way shot from the Northern Hemisphere (Nepal), the Southern Hemisphere (South Africa), and the equator, but we can't always get what we want. I did get a couple nice shots, so it wasn't a waste at all.

Unfortunately, things took a sour turn when Carlos walked by. I asked him what was up, and he mentioned that reports said a tsunami was coming in as a result of the Chilean earthquake. I didn't get all the details, but it seemed as though it would hit around 10am, possibly. I wasn't particularly concerned for our specific living situation, since the Hacienda was located in the Highlands, a couple hundred meters above sea level, but it spelled trouble for the coastal areas (including the main town). That provided some context as to why all these cars were zipping about at night (and why the dogs were going nuts). As troublesome as that news was, there was nothing I could do about it that night, so I just went back to the house and soon went to bed.

Wednesday was a bit of an odd day, at least work-wise. We had been told that we'd have a late start, and could wake up at 7am. That was almost two extra hours of sleep; not too shabby! However, maybe there was some miscommunication somewhere, because before my alarm even went off, I could hear people in the dining room, having breakfast. I joined them, and since I didn't have much desire to have two pieces of toast in addition to a toasted sandwich, I had some cereal for the first time, using the low-fat milk I had gotten (which will be the closest I'll be able to find to skim here). It was pretty good (again, I like cereal). While eating, we tried getting some information from Jose about the threat posed by a tsunami. He assured us that a tsunami wouldn't reach as high as the Hacienda, which I think everybody already knew: we were all more concerned about the people in the coastal towns, to say nothing of the infrastructure - Internet, planes home, the works. Unfortunately, we couldn't get any more details.

Work began at 8am, and it turns out that one of the reasons we could afford the late start was because instead of having to make the 45-minute hike up the hill, we were working on-site, in a field that was literally eighty feet away from our house. It was a pretty basic assignment - there used to be a lot of guava trees in that field, and they had been cut down. Now there were small ones (well, "small" comprising various sizes, but none more than about waist-high). We had to use our machetes to cut down these new saplings. It became immediately clear to me that nobody wanted the big, heavy machete, so I took this black sheep, and it turned out to be a great choice, since this thing - it was practically a scimitar - was quite sharp, and the heft allowed it to carry momentum well. As such, while I other folks grabbing their machetes with two hands and hack-hack-hacking away at a particular cluster, I would just unleash a mighty swipe, getting about 60% of the new growths in a single swing. Or who knows, maybe I just had really good form? Anyway, it was a big field, and there was an almost facial amount of guava growing, so we got to work immediately, and went for a few hours before we seemingly cleared everything. There...there really isn't all that much to talk about. There was some conversations going on, but it was mostly working. We did come up with the idea that instead of paying the $100 entry fee to enter the islands, every tourist should be forced to do at least one day of volunteer work doing this kind of thing. It would speed up progress on renovation by a thousand-fold, and would give all the tourists a greater sense of investment. Oh, and we also found a lot more bones, including a number of large leg bones, an even larger number of vertebrae, the lower jawbone of what seemed to be a dog, a beat-up cow skull, and an amazingly intact mule/donkey skull, with nearly all its teeth in place. There was enough that we could have built a bone cairn if we wanted to. (We didn't.)

Sometime while we were working, Jose left. We weren't really sure where. I could only assume it was to town, and in some way was tsunami-related. However, once we were finished, he still hadn't come back, and so we were stuck trying to figure out if we still needed to do anything. He hadn't given us any other instructions for the day, so for the moment, we just headed back to the house, passing by pile after pile of the chopped guava tree younglings, already wilting in the hot sun. We all sat on the porch, and talked for a good long bit, all while half of us were trying to avoid the cigarette smoke of the other half without just out-an-out moving away. Eventually, we came to the conclusion that, yeah, there wasn't going to be anything more for the day - it was pretty light, all things considered - so we just started getting ready for lunch. For the second time in two days, people were already eating when I finished with my shower, and it seemed like a bit of a muted meal, if only because it was so hot that our soup and pasta wasn't the most appetizing of offerings. In any case, we talked a bit more, with topics that ranged from Game of Thrones to haunted houses to 20th Century dictators (and somehow each of those segued to the others). Later on, after washing up, we went outside. I suddenly noticed that one of the palm trees in the area had what appeared to be three-chamber coconuts on it. I managed to find a fallen on, and tried breaking it open. I cursed the fact that they had just taken away the machetes five minutes earlier, because I was stuck using caveman methods (that is to say, rocks) to get in. And it turned out not to be worth it in the end. Either they weren't the right type of coconuts to have water in them, or they weren't coconuts at all. (Truth be told, I'm not all that well-versed on the wild world of palm trees.) There was just a solid...stuff going throughout these things. Maybe this was a different type of palm seed? Maybe this is what palm oil is made out of? When you don't have the Internet available at a moment’s notice, you can only speculate on such things.

(What we didn't need to speculate on, though, was that we didn't like the fact that Artia, the friendly dog who'd been hanging around us, was only getting fed officially once a week. Apparently, some power-that-be decided that since it had become friends with us, we should now be responsible for making sure it has food the rest of the time. All other issues - and there are other issues - aside, it would have been nice to know that before it had already been a couple days. But yeah, dog welfare didn't seem high on the list for some of the farmers around here. Some folks were thinking about buying dog food in town, which I'd be super willing to contribute to.)

Eventually, some people decided to go to town to get some stuff done. While I asked them to try to get some information on the status of the tsunami threat, I abstained myself. My only real reason for going to town right now - other than posting these blog entries, of course - is to book my snorkeling trip to Kicker Rock. However, with the tsunami threat still looming, and the exact details of it being a relative unknown, I wanted to hold off. I know how South American companies work, and if I were to go to town and book a trip, and then the next day the tsunami went through the town, resulting in the shutdown of all companies for, say a week, then I wouldn't be able to go on the trip, and the likelihood of getting a refund would be close to nil. So, I figured I'd give myself an extra day for things to become a bit clearer in terms of what may or may not be happening. Instead, I just went back to my Secret Hammock and did more reading. And I have to say, there was something about the situation that was just...great. Like, I was lying in a hammock, reading. It was hot, but only warm in the shade, and there was a gentle breeze blowing through. To my right was Lassie, the old black lady dog, lying down and relaxing. To my left were some chickens, a mother and three chicks, digging little burrows in the dirt. There were a couple flies crawling across the exposed parts of my legs, enough for me to notice, but not enough for me to be bothered. And tying it altogether was the music. I was again listening to an album I've mentioned multiple times before, from the game Bastion. In this moment, I was listening on repeat to a song called "Build That Wall (Zia's Theme)". In case I forget to provide a link, please try to listen to the song on YouTube, because that makes it easier to understand why it helped create a perfect little moment. It's just one of those two-note guitar songs with lazily sung vocals, which melded together with the hammock, the animals, the warm breeze, in order to create a space that was completely separate from all the troubles of the world.

After having gotten a bit of reading done, I went back inside the house, where I did some writing for a while, and then just...well, I hesitate to say "relaxed", since really that's all I was doing since lunch. So let's just say some less-productive relaxing. This continued for some time, until I moved my operations from my room to the dining room, where I sat, talked to the Finns a bit, and waited for people to come in, which happened not too long afterward. And almost as if on cue, dinner was served. My main point of curiosity in the initial dinner conversation was the status of the tsunami threat. The news that came in was probably as good as it could get: the earthquake, while powerful, was not terribly disastrous to Chile, and it did not result in any tsunamis, so we were in the clear. That meant I continue as I had been planning. Anyway, the conversation turned to less natural disaster-based topics, and in a bit of a change of pace, we were joined by Jose and his son (I think), Pepito. I had never been in a terribly deep conversation with Jose, but I heard that he and pretty much everyone else focused on girls at almost all times. This time was no different: whenever they spoke, it seemed as though every sentence included the word "chicas". For my part, I must seem like quite a boring individual, because I mentioned that my kind of parties (like my going-away party from the States) involves tea and conversation. It's like, I don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs, don't chase tail...how does one like me have fun? It's hard to explain that it's mix of subtle conversation and over-the-top adventure; because nobody ever believes whichever part they don't see. Oh, well, I know I have fun. (And my mom says I'm cool.) The conversation continued well until 9pm, when we all decided to get ready for bed (horrible, I know). I went to my bed, did my night writing, watched some videos, and then prepped for another early wake-up.

So, after all that build-up about a tsunami, it turns out that everything will continue smooth sailing. Well...good, I guess. My long-suffering guardian angel must be spreading his wings over multiple continents to keep me intact. I will admit, I would have liked some sort of danger to come my way - that would make for some interesting anecdotes - but if it means that thousands of people don't have their lives negatively affected, I can let it pass. So be it.

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